14 July 1915: Very great concern

The War Office, working with the Red Cross, had established that George was not amongst the wounded or deceased at any point along their lines of medical communication between Gallipoli and Alexandria-Malta-Blighty, hence their telegram to Kittie of 12 July declaring him officially missing.

Kittie immediately wrote to a number of her and George’s closest friends informing them of this development, and one can also be sure that the news spread rapidly through Nina Corbet’s circle and literary networks. Previously, the idea that George was ‘wounded’, as he had been once before, was not that unsettling for them. But the new status of ‘missing’ was deeply worrying. They instantly communicated to Kittie their concern.

Today she received a long letter from William Rothenstein in Gloucestershire (I cannot quote it all as it is still in copyright). ‘My dear Mrs Calderon,’ it began, ‘it never entered my head that George was anything but lightly wounded or that there was any doubt about your ultimately hearing from him.’  He was ‘very much shaken’ by the news. ‘I love George as a brother and the thought of him lying untended and alone I cannot easily bear.’ Clearly, though, Kittie had expressed to him her hope that George had been taken prisoner. ‘Our dear, brave, witty and lovable George without you by him […] in that strange hostile place and none of us able to get near him’ undoubtedly refers to Turkey itself, as Rothenstein goes on to name friends who he knows once had contacts in Turkey. He is writing to them himself about ‘means of communicating’ with George in a Turkish hospital or prison camp.

Letters followed from Violet Pym and Constance Sutton (Astley). Somebody had told Violet ‘the other day that George could not be missing, or it would have been reported. That they always report that promptly. So I had been hoping that he might still be with his regiment fighting (they report the smallest scratch as ‘wounded’) and that they were too far forward perhaps to send letters. […] Darling Kittie, I just can’t say what I am feeling about you.’ ‘All my love is with you’, Constance Sutton wrote. ‘I simply ache for your awful time of heartrending anxiety — GOD bless and help you, my Dear One.’

Kittie also received a scribbled letter today from the indefatigable Gertrude Bell. She told Kittie she had heard that Sir Louis Mallet (Ambassador to Turkey 1913-14) was back from France, she planned to meet him tomorrow, and would ask him whether ‘as private people’ they could submit an inquiry about George in Constantinople. She ended her letter:

The American Ambassador has not as yet been able to do very much for us, though we do get lists of prisoners from their embassy here from time to time. Everything we can do shall be done for you.

Believe me yours sincerely

Gertrude Bell

Next entry: 15 July 1915


About Patrick Miles

I am a writer who specialises in Anton Chekhov and is writing a biography of George Calderon.
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